Pubdate: Fri, 10 Jul 2015
Source: Jamaica Observer (Jamaica)
Copyright: 2015 The Jamaica Observer Ltd,
Author: Jediael Carter


THE National Council on Drug Abuse (NCDA) says it is taking action to
stem the prevalence of drug use among young people by educating them.

"Our primary responsibility right now is protecting young people from
the negative consequences of using [drugs]," Executive Director of the
NCDA, Michael Tucker told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.

This comes on the heels of reports that students were ingesting
marijuana in candies and the recent legislative amendment to the
Dangerous Drugs Act, which created several opportunities for the use
of marijuana in Jamaica because of the decriminalisation of small
amounts of the weed.

The NCDA, with the support of the Ministry of Health, yesterday launched 
a public education campaign themed "Ganja: Know the Facts, Know How to Act".

Speaking at a press conference yesterday, Tucker told journalists that
the campaign is expected to inform the public on the boundaries of the
legislation, an individual's rights and liabilities under the Act,
behavioural responsibilities in the new legislative environment and
the NCDA's role in supporting and protecting vulnerable

"The council will be taking a multitiered, collaborative approach to
managing and preventing or reducing harm to high risk groups through a
public health strategy which includes mass media, advocacy and
regulations, education programming and surveillance," Tucker said.

He said that through the campaign, the council is hoping to reduce by
30 per cent the number of persons arrested for the possession of more
than two ounces of ganja in public places and the caseload of criminal
courts for ganja possession. He said the council was also hoping to
see a decrease in the number of students ages 13-18 who start smoking
ganja while still in school.

The director told the Observer that the NCDA was working outside of
the public education programme to inform the youth.

"There is also work being done with the Ministry of Education to
infuse the messaging into the health and family life education
programme; and also there is a lot of work being done on the ground in
the community. We're actually in communities doing town hall meetings
[and] interacting with the people on the ground; meeting with the
youngsters on the corner, just having discussions about what the
reality is," he said.

The minister of health, Dr Fenton Ferguson, gave his stamp of approval
to the campaign as he lauded the work of the NCDA to target vulnerable

"The youth population, persons with mental illness, pregnant women and
other vulnerable populations are being specifically targeted. The
general population needs to be made aware and to be encouraged to know
all they can about the new legislation such as the boundaries of the
legislation, individual rights and liabilities under the Act and most
importantly, behavioural responsibilities in the new legislative
environment," the minister said.

According to the Jamaica Secondary School Survey of 2013, the overall
lifetime prevalence of marijuana use in the youth population is 20 per
cent, with the average age of marijuana first use being 13 years.

The minister urged parents to acquaint themselves with the information
on the new legislation in order to protect themselves and their children.
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